Public sector contract terms will change dramatically in light of new Cabinet Office plan

The new Cabinet Office and Civil Service workforce plan to 2020 has three major implications for commercial suppliers to Government.

1/ Changes to Senior Civil Service recruitment and pay will encourage mutual secondments between Departments and suppliers, but will also increase the risk of key staff being ‘poached’ by the public sector.

2/ The Civil Service will recruit according to “potential not polish” (i.e. it will hire people from wider socio-economic backgrounds) and it will establish a requirement to collect more demographic data on staff. Both “voluntary” features are highly likely to be passed on to suppliers, too – initially through an “invitation” to agree “a common national

set of measures for employers to use for understanding the socio-economic background” of their staff and potential recruits. As a result, major public sector contracts will only be won when firms toe the line and can demonstrate the diversity of their own workforce.

3/ The workforce review allows the Cabinet Office to grab even more power over wide-ranging functions across Government. There will be “a centre of expertise within Cabinet Office, centralising the senior recruitment function”. In other words, senior officials in all Departments will be chosen by – and answer to – the Cabinet Office, rather than their own Department. This makes engagement with the Cabinet Office more important than ever.

As an aside, the review also poses some prickly political challenges. For example, while Senior Civil Servants are in line for pay rises by November (“flexible rewards for scare skills”), there will be job cuts elsewhere (“in future the Civil Service will need to be smaller”). Indeed, if the review represents an effort to stuff the mouths of top mandarins with gold but leaves frontline staff demoralised, Theresa May’s new administration could quickly find that when it pulls the levers of Government, nothing happens.

The full Cabinet Office workforce plan can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-service-workforce-plan-2016-to-2020

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